Manitoba Passes Bill to Combat Non-Consensual Sharing of Intimate Images
Available in Audio Format:
Earlier this month, the Manitoba provincial government passed the Intimate Images Protection Amendment Act which reverses the burden of proof in the distribution of intimate images. This means that, instead of a victim having to prove that an intimate image was shared without their consent, the perpetrator now has to prove that they had consent to share the image. Essentially, the Manitoba law now assumes that sharing intimate images was done without the victim’s consent, unless proven otherwise. This change makes it easier in Manitoba to hold purveyors of pornography responsible and liable for the harm they inflict on their victims.
Sharing intimate images without consent is already illegal at the federal level. Section 162 of the Criminal Code makes the sharing of such images a criminal offence. For example, if a boyfriend saved intimate images of his girlfriend and decides to share those pictures with his friends without her consent, that would run afoul of the federal law. That boyfriend could be prosecuted under the Criminal Code.
Manitoba, like several other Canadian provinces, already had provincial legislation on this issue. This bill simply makes the law tougher. Earlier this year, British Columbia introduced its own new law cracking down on non-consensual sharing of intimate images.
This Intimate Images Protection Amendment Act is a good piece of legislation that would help to combat sexual extortion and online bullying. However, this legislation could go further. It rightly sees harm in the sharing of non-consensual intimate images, but it fails to address the consumption of sexually explicit photos. While the distributor of the photos can be sanctioned, there is no penalty for anyone who remains in possession of non-consensual sexually explicit material nor is there any incentive to report such illegal behaviour. These two deficiencies could be addressed in the Act. Furthermore, the Intimate Images Protection Amendment Act continues to view most sexually explicit material as permissible as long as it is consensual. As long as someone consents to the sharing of intimate images of their body, all is lawful.
Consent in sexual matters is important and necessary, but more is needed. Scripture speaks about sexual intimacy being reserved for within the boundaries of marriage. Even within that context, Adam and Eve were ashamed of their nakedness after the Fall (Genesis 3). Ham was cursed by God for inappropriately witnessing the nakedness of his father Noah (Genesis 9). Jesus commands us to clothe the naked (Matthew 25) and Paul often admonishes against indulging in porneia (usually translated as “sexual immorality” but from which we get the English word pornography; e.g. 1 Corinthians 7:2, 1 Thessalonians 4:3, Galatians 5:19).
By focusing solely on consent around sexually explicit content, legislation like this misses an opportunity to address an equally important discussion on the proper context for sexual intimacy. It also ignores the growing evidence that the proliferation of sexually explicit material – whether produced consensually or non-consensually – is a public health issue associated with loneliness, anxiety, poor mental health, increased sexual aggression, and dissatisfaction with romantic relationships. Efforts are ongoing at the federal level to crack down on pornography. The provincial government needs to join the fight.
In the meantime, however, increasing enforcement against the non-consensual sharing of intimate images is a step in the right direction. Please take a moment to send a note of thanks to your MLA and Minister Goertzen for spearheading this legislation.
If you want to learn more about the issue of pornography and sexually explicit material and the societal harms associated with it, check out our policy report on pornography.